Queen Victoria, Duke of Wellington, Robert Peel Targeted in Statues Review

A statue of Britain's Queen Victoria stands defaced in Woodhouse Moor Park in Leeds, north
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Leeds has launched a review into statues of figures including Queen Victoria, former prime ministers the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel, who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo and founded the police, respectively, and even the Black Prince, who long predates the British empire and the Atlantic slave trade.

Leeds City Council has launched an independent review of all historical monuments and statues on public land, suggesting that statues depicting colonial-era figures demonstrate how “racism continues to be prevalent in everyday life”.

The review, which was commissioned last month, came after the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol, and shortly before a statue of Queen Victoria was vandalised by Black Lives Matter activists in Leeds, who scrawled “Slag”, “Whore”, and “Slave Owner” on the monument to the former British monarch.

(In fact, Victoria became Queen after slavery had been abolished, and Britain spent much of her reign actively stamping it out worldwide.)

The city council admitted that the review of statues came about as a result of Black Lives Matter activism, saying: “A fresh wave of protests and demonstrations are calling for action to end racial inequality and racism in the UK and across the world. The protests have highlighted examples of how racism continues to be prevalent in everyday life.”

“One such example is the display of statues which honour people who were directly involved in, benefitted from or had links to the slave trade and colonialism,” the council claimed.

“These statues can conflict with contemporary vales and may not represent the values of a modern, outward, diverse and proud city. For instance, the statues of Sir Robert Peel, Queen Victoria and Duke of Wellington would have been erected when the narrative of colonial expansion and ‘empire’ was more celebratory and less critical in nature than it is today,” they added.

The review is being chaired by Honourary Alderwoman Alison Lowe, the first female black city councillor in the Leeds’ history. The review will also seek to replace the statues with tributes to people or communities that “represent the diversity” of the city.

“As a historian myself I am delighted to have been asked to chair this review and have already discovered new facets of the history of Leeds and its people through our early investigations. In order to complete the review, I urge people to get involved so that all voices can be heard. I look forward to seeing and hearing all the responses,” said Lowe.

In June, London Mayor Sadiq Khan became the first leader of a city in Britain to launch a review of statues and monuments from the colonial era, creating a Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm to determine which monuments should be torn down.

The anti-Trump leftist mayor went on to suggest that statues of British historical figures should be replaced with monuments honouring to LGBTQ+ and racial minority figures.

The Labour Party as a whole soon followed suit, announcing that all 130 Labour Party controlled councils would review the “appropriateness” of statues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed he opposes removing statues, but has not used his 79-seat majority in the House of Commons to do anything about it, and his government has rejected a petition signed by over 30,000 people asking for them to receive greater protection.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka


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